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Close-Up: Dr Brian McKenna

3 Dec 2013, by Informa Insights

Dr Brian McKenna

Brian McKenna is a Kiwi, Registered Nurse and the inaugural Professor of Mental Health Nursing at the Australian Catholic University and NorthWestern Mental Health, Melbourne Health.

Brian has an undergraduate degree in social anthropology and it was an interest in culture which led to him working in a hospital as a nursing orderly in Derby, Western Australia in the late 1970s. Through this experience his love for nursing grew and led to registration in the profession. In 1995 he commenced a joint appointment working clinically in a regional forensic mental health service and teaching in a school of nursing in New Zealand.  Working with people who experienced the double stigma of mental illness and related violent offending was a challenge he relished.  Many of these people are ordered to secure mental health services by the courts for long periods of time.  There is immense satisfaction in working alongside people on a recovery journey from the experiences of mental illness and offending to leading pro-social lives back in the community.  The development of their strength, hope and resilience is something to behold.

Brian has a PhD in Psychiatry. His most recent role until coming to Australia at the end of 2012 was as an Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Mental Health Research at the University of Auckland, and nurse consultant at the Auckland Regional Forensic Psychiatry Services.

His thesis focused on the experiences of coercion of consumers under mental health legislation. He has published widely on research in forensic mental health, and the interface between clinical practice and mental health law.  This includes research on the relationship between mental health and homicide; evaluation of in-reach mental health service delivery to prisons; problem gambling in prisons; risk assessment and management; nurses and statutory roles under mental health legislation; and new graduate nurses’ experiences of violence.

Brian’s present position is located within NorthWestern Mental Health, which is one of the largest publicly-funded providers of mental health services in Australia. NWMH provides mental health services to residents in the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne, a catchment area of approximately 1.2 million people.  His current role involves Forensic nursingworking with mental health nurses to build a culture of nursing involvement in research.  This work is focusing on embedding recovery-orientated care into nursing practice and mental health service delivery; reducing restrictive interventions in nursing care; and meeting the physical health care needs of mental health consumers.

Brian will be presenting at the National Forensic Nursing Conference, to be held on the 20th and 21st February 2014 in Sydney. His talk is titled “Forensic Mental Health Consumers: Who Dares to Care?” and will focus on the following issues:

  • Forensic mental health consumers are a heterogeneous group whose offending behaviour may or may not have been related to mental illness. They present with multiple, complex bio-psychosocial needs
  • The role of the forensic mental health nurse has progressed from mainly providing containment, to providing recovery supportive care
  • But what does it take to nurse for those whom others may “love to hate”? What are the joys, potential pitfalls and challenges?

For more information about the event and to register, please visit the National Forensic Nursing Conference website.

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